Quality interview from the April 2 edition of The Jim Rome Show with Trail Blazers starting center Robin Lopez. In the interview, Lopez talks about his birthday celebration, which ride at Disneyland is his favorite, naming all Seven Dwarfs, fitting in as a Portlander, doubting himself after a back injury in Phoenix, the Goonies and being “weird as hell.” There’s also a little basketball in there as well. Lopez also answers a question about Tiger Woods needing a discectomy that I’m fairly certain Lopez misheard as “vasectomy” given the nature of his answer.
It sounds like you had an amazing birthday. You got a double-double, you beat the Lakers, Emmy Rossum was sitting courtside and you went to Disneyland. Was that the best birthday you’ve ever had?
It’s up there. It’s up there. I haven’t had any other celebrity show up on my birthday, so I think it’s going to have to be number one for right now.
It sounds like you had a day. Let me ask you about Disney, because I know you’re a big Disney guy. What is your favorite ride?
Pirates of the Caribbean, no question.
Break that down for me. Why do you like that best?
I think that’s the best example of everything that Disney does so well. The attention to detail, the storyline, everything coming together in perfect synthesis.
I’ve got to think that Team Space Mountain is going to be furious about that. What would you say to them?
It’s up there. I don’t want them to take that comment too hard. Space Mountain has a place in my heart, too. I love Space Mountain. It’s a little rough on me though. I’m kind of tall so it’s a little rough on the knees, but hey, I love it though.
Well said. So the team gets off to a hot start but has been a little up and down since then. But you have won four in a row. Do you feel like you’re playing the type of ball you want to be playing heading into the postseason?
I do. I actually feel, right now, we’re playing the best ball of the season. We’re very focused on both ends and we haven’t really played like this in the sense there have been so few lulls throughout the past four games. Even when we were playing really well, we would play teams pretty close. We would let team back in games, we would have to play from behind. But the past four we’ve been in control for the most part of the game.
It seems like you’re a perfect fit for Portland, not just on the court but off it, almost to the point that it feels like you’ve been there forever, when in reality, you were just traded there last summer. Did you know at the time how good of a match this was going to be?
It’s funny, when I was playing in Phoenix, Channing Frye, who had been in Portland, told me if I visited there, if I went there, I was just going to love it. And I was a little reluctant to believe him just because Channing talks a lot of stuff. But it turns out he’s been 100 percent right. I can’t believe how perfectly the fit has been. It’s a bizarre city, I’m weird as hell. It’s a match made in heaven.
We talk about this almost every single day on and off the air: weird is good. Weird is different. As you look back over your career, who are some of the weirdest guys you’ve played with?
Channing would definitely have to be one of them. I love that guy. He’s into comics just as much as I am, weird movies that you’ve never heard of, all kinds of stuff like that. He holds an annual kickball tournament in Portland every year. My vet was Shaq, and that’s a cool guy but he’s also weird.
Speaking of movies, you were the only Blazer who could name all Seven Dwarfs. How much does it disappoint you that some of the other guys couldn’t even name one?
It is a little heartbreaking. When my contract comes up I’m definitely going to have to search around the league and find that kindred soul who can name all seven. I think that’s going to be a huge breaking point for me.
They couldn’t dig deep? They can’t get Grumpy?
I know, it hurts. I don’t really want to think about it, honestly.
I won’t bring it up again. From a basketball standpoint your coaches, your teammates rave about your game and your attitude and how much better you’ve made them. Terry Stotts has been doing some lobbying for you as the league’s most improved player. You’re not a guy looking to hype yourself but what does that mean to you to hear that from your coach and your teammates?
That gave me so much confidence to go out there and even play better. That’s a beautiful thing about the situation I’m in in Portland. I feel very comfortable, I feel like I have complete freedom out there. And in that situation it’s easy for me to perform.
Was it like that in Phoenix?
It was, but I think it’s different when you’re one or two years in the league. With that injury I wasn’t quite as sure of myself, I lost eight inches off my vertical. It was a combination of factors in Phoenix. I just didn’t have my mind right.
Did you really lose eight inches off your vertical?
Yeah, that’s true. When I had the bulging disk and pinched nerve in my back, I just lost all of my athleticism which, back then especially, was a huge component of my game, couldn’t run up and down the court as quickly. I remember one moment specifically. My third year in preseason I caught the ball off one of Steve’s (Nash} passes and and saw, I think, Tyler Hansbrough under the basket. And I was like “Oh, I’m going to dunk this. I’m going to put him in a bucket.” And I went up and he pinned it right against the backboard and I’m like “What’s going on?”
That’s got to mess with your head, right?
Yeah. There were moments, especially right after the injury, where I was like “Am I not as good? Am I bad at basketball?” It is tough. That said, I had good teammates around me, I had people, good support staff keeping my head up. I just tried to keep working at it.
Nothing against Psycho T — I guess it’s one thing if Dwight Howard does it — but if Psycho T does that maybe it causes to question yourself a little bit. You mention a back and a pinched nerve. Maybe your situation is not the same, but when you see Tiger Woods and what he’s dealing with right now and he needs a discectomy and he swings a golf club for a living, what do you think he’s dealing with physically?
You know, I’m not sure. Unfortunately I’ve never had that many women throw themselves at me, so I don’t think our situations are really comparable.
I don’t think anybody has. The year is so long and when things aren’t going well you’ve got to find a way to deal with it. You had a great tweet after a loss to Charlotte. You wrote “Rough one tonight but got to focus on the next one and Goonies on ABC Fam right now. Never Say Die. Rip City.” Is watching Goonies one of the secrets to getting over a tough loss.
Oh, yes. For sure. There are a lot of good life lessons in that movie. Obviously The Goonies stick together, people don’t always believe in them but they never give up, never say die.
Before you go, who is your favorite Goonie?
My favorite Goonie has to be Data or Mouth. First of all, I think Mouth is definitely Wesley Matthews of our team. Data is probably Nic. I think Mikey would have to be LA because he’s the heart of the team. I would be Chunk.
I was going to say, I thought you were a Chunk guy.
Yeah. Oh, I love Chunk. He claims he saw Michael Jackson, that scene where he’s talking about he’s in a movie theater and he started throwing up and making everybody else throw up. That’s classic stuff right there.
What about Bran?
Bran, that’s rough. Might be Coach Stotts.
How about Sloth?
Sloth? Oh man, I don’t know if I want to put Sloth on anybody. Might be Joel Freeland.
You’ve got an interesting relationship with a number of mascots around the league. It seems like guys don’t want to deal with it or think about it, but you have relationships. How did that start?
You know, it started because I was getting a little abuse from mascots and I really didn’t want to be that guy that was just taking that sitting down, laying on my back. I knew at some point I had to start fighting back. I don’t know if it’s the hair, I look a little goofy, sound a little goofy but i was just a bull’s eye for mascots, So I was like, enough of that, I’m going to go on the aggressive. That doesn’t make grammatical sense, but I think you get the gist.
Makes sense to me. Did that start with the mascot in Detroit? Was that the first time? You guys got into it once.
That’s happened before but that’s the first time that I had to respond. I wasn’t going to take that from him.
Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is currently holding his annual youth basketball camp in Beaverton, and unlike some of these events put on by other players, Lillard is there actually there working with the kids every day. If you send your child to the Damian Lillard Basketball Camp, he or she is going to meet Damian Lillard.
But even though the focus is on the kids, Lillard took a few minutes to take questions from the media about the camp, his recent trip to Asia, working with Special Olympics, the upcoming free agent signing period on his involvement with recruiting and why he declined to to play for Team USA.
Regarding the Damian Lillard Basketball Camp experience…
“When I get up there and speak, I tell them ‘Make sure you thank your parents, make sure you listen to the coaches, follow their instructions, be coachable, work hard.’ Just simple things like that, a lot of basic things that could teach them a lot more than how simple it is, things like that. Just being here and having a presence is the biggest thing. The session that you guys just watched, it’s something that I’ve enjoyed because it allows me to kind of break apart the game for the kids. For them it might be a little bit boring, but it’s 10 minutes of the day where they get to listen and see what’s going on, that it’s deeper than just a pass and a shot. Some of them are probably too young to follow it as well as the older ones, but I think it’s something that you can really teach them at a young age.”
On his relationship with Special Olympics…
“When I was 17, when I first got on campus at Weber State, it was a mandatory thing, we did a one day camp with Special Olympics. The first day I kind of just went in there, I didn’t really know much about it. But then I saw that some of them, they wanted to play against us and they could actually play. They had as much passion with the game as I did, they really enjoyed our company. I’ll never forget, it was a random day like months after the Special Olympics event and there was a kid — I’ll never forget his name — Jason Depper. I was at the mall and he walked up to me at the mall like ‘Remember I made that shot on you?’ and I was just like ‘That’s funny.’ It had that type of impact on him. I’ve been involved ever since.”
On his recent trip through Asia with adidas…
“It was fun, did some pop-ups at stores. I went to some 3-on-3 tournaments, watched a lot of kids play. They’re playing so they can all make it to Beijing and it’s like a super tournament over there right now. I did some promotion for my shoes and things like that, I went back to a store that I opened up after my rookie year in Taipei, I went back to Manila. We did a huge event there, I got to get in the three-point shootout, they let me perform a couple times over there. It was kind of on the spot performances, but I had a lot of fun.”
Why he decided not to be a part of the 2016 Olympic team…
“It was simple: the last three months of the season I played with plantar fasciitis and it really bothered me. There was days the games seemed like the only time I could play, and that was adrenaline and two hours of treatment before the game. I didn’t want to go into next season dealing with it. I actually really wanted to play and I was really close to saying ‘Just forget it, I’m going to go’ but I didn’t want to go to Rio and come back a month before training camp and my foot still be bothering me, then I can’t give what I want to give to my team. That was just more important to me.”
On free agency…
“I think there’s some guys out there that can really help take our team to the next level. I really like the guys we have, too. I’m a strong believer that if guys go home and get better over the summer, we come back, we’ll be that much better. We’ll continue to get better. But my job is to make sure that I’m prepared and when I’m asked about a player that can help us, I’m going to give my honest opinion. That’s my duty to our team.”
His thoughts on Portland’s free agency plan…
“I’m excited, because it’s not hard to see… Our whole roster could look at free agency and say ‘This guy could help us, this guy could help us.’ It’s just a matter of how bad they want to be here, what we have to offer compared to what they would like. We’ll see where it goes. I have no doubt that our team is going to be ready regardless of who we bring in, who we don’t bring in. We’ll come back ready.”
Whether he’s going to help recruit free agents in person…
“Maybe. Maaaaaaybe… I might. To help our team, of course.”
Greetings fans of NBA offseason news. With the 2106 Draft now completed and the free agent moratorium less than 48 away, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the Moda Center studio to record yet another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
This week, Trail Blazers power forward Meyers Leonard joins the show to discuss his travels around Oregon this offseason, rehabbing from the shoulder surgery that prematurely ended his 2015-16 season, “sprint mechanics” and his upcoming restricted free agency. As for the rest of the show, we briefly recap Portland’s draft night, which netted the team Maryland forward Jake Layman, discuss what we know about the negotiations regarding the team’s television rights and discuss the unpredictability that is free agency.
The relationship between Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver predates both of their current occupations. When the two first sat down for a interview back in 2010, McCollum had not yet been drafted by the Trail Blazers with the 10th overall pick of the 2012 Draft (though that would happen later that night) and Silver, while already tabbed to take over for outgoing commissioner David Stern, was still pulling duty as deputy commissioner.
Every year since then, McCollum and Silver have met up in New York City after the end of the season to discuss topics pertaining to the NBA and society in general. In 2014, they discussed the situation with the previous Los Angeles Clippers ownership, the age limit, emerging technologies, Silver’s first year as the NBA’s head honcho and their favorite Jay-Z tracks. In 2015, McCollum, armed with a few seasons of experience and a new job at The Players’ Tribune, followed up on some of the questions from the year before regarding the age limit while also bringing up issues such as ads on jerseys, transparency in officiating and head injuries.
And in their fourth annual interview, released on The Players’ Tribune as a part of McCollum’s summer internship with the athlete-owned website, the two discuss how far they’ve come (or in CJ’s case, how much weight he’s lost) since their first meeting in 2012, Silver’s handshakes, whether the NBA would have their All-Star Weekend at “remote locations” like the NFL, whether the league is considering moving the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, the 2016 NBA Finals and the suspension of Draymond Green and recent efforts to increase diversity in NBA front offices. You can watch an excerpt of the interview in the above video, or read the entire Q&A over at The Players’ Tribune.